Helen herself is moderately excited by the prospect of school but not (I think) too much so, and we're thinking this will work out ok. The welcome afternoon a couple of weeks ago went off swimmingly, despite the heat. One of Helen's quite close friends from nursery is going to be in the same class as her, and the two of them basically just went for it, putting on a puppet show with the class toys, clambering around the playground equipment, and sharing a tandem tricycle. There's also another friend she sees semi-regularly in the class, and two or three familiar faces from dance classes and playgrounds. And another good friend from our NCT group is in the other reception class. That should provide some reassurance till she gets to know all the new people.
The class teacher seems nice, and it was good to discover the school is providing two teaching assistants for the reception classes, so though they will have the full 30 children each the child-adult ratio won't actually be increasing much from the 8:1 at preschool (where there are typically 5 teachers to 40 children).
The demographics are going to be different, however. Helen's nursery is work-based, located in between a major hospital and a biomedical research campus, and all the children there I know about have one, or in many cases both, parents working for the University or the NHS. The school intake, on the other hand, is largely catchment-based and almost half the reception pupils will be moving up from the on-site preschool. And the 32 places in the "after-school club" are clearly too few for demand, but the vast majority of the 450 children must have parents who can manage 3pm pickups.
We're in that category ourselves: I will be changing my working hours from 11.30-5 to 9-2.30. It is also going to be a flat 500m walk to school instead of a 2km cycle to nursery, which won't be so good for my aerobic fitness. (I've been doing most of the nursery runs since Camilla moved to the Medawar Building, and while hardly arduous it is 50m up to nursery.)